Tuesday, I don’t care about you

Two hours of writing time this morning. In my head, this usually equates to about 1,000 words of writing. In practice, it resulted in 498 new words on Frost, which is not a rate that will get things done by the time they need to be done. Only 29,232 words left to write.

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Weird day at the day-job today.

One of the things you don’t expect about running a site like the Australian Writer’s Marketplace is the dead market factor. Sometimes it manifests in the form of irate users writing to complain about the fact that they’ve found a dead market in the database. More often, people write to complain that Market X isn’t included in the database, when Market X has been closed for a number of years.

‘Course, if I can’t remember said market closing, I’m obligated to go and see if it’s still around, just in case we do have a gap in the listings. Today I spend a good half-hour looking into the death of Ralph magazine, confirming it really was dead before emailing the chap who insisted we had a gap.

It’d be easy to get irritated at these people. It’s usually my first response, ’cause the complaints inevitably come back in when I’m doing things that are both a) more complex, and b) more important.

But I force myself to sit and take them seriously regardless.

I’ve got this quote from a Seth Godin post attached to the wall by my phone, which is basically my philosophy of customer service over the last six months. The gist is pretty simple:

The complaining customer doesn’t want a refund. He wants a connection, an apology and some understanding. He wants to know why you made him feel stupid or ripped off or disrespected, and why it’s not going to happen again.

It’s a surprisingly useful exercise, trying to figure out what’s prompted a complainer to write. People whose emails sound terrifying negative – real I hate you all and swear I’ll never do business with you again types – are actually pretty easy to bring over to your side if you can understand why they’re having a strong reaction.

It occurs to me that it’s also a useful thing for writers to learn.

The people who hate your work – not the merely dismissive folks, but the people who will passionately rail against you the way I initially railed against Avatar or the entirety of Zac Snyder’s creative output – they’re actually on your side, a little. They’ve seen something in your work that they want to like, but it’s been coupled with something that makes them feel stupid or disrespected as an audience member.

If you fix that, you can get them back.

It’s when you ignore them, blithely going on producing disappointment after disappointment, that you train them to stop caring and ignore your future output.

 

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